When I was a kid, I used to sit with my dad and watch ‘war’ movies. I confess that my child mind did wander on occasion and I missed quite a bit of the movies, but as I got older and saw those same old movies yet again they took on more significance. I watched such movies as Big Red One, Twelve O’ Clock High, D-Day (yes the whole thing)and the like. I know that in recent years war movies made a resurgence, but I confess that I don’t have the stomach for that much authenticity with the exception of Memphis Belle.
Now why did I go on about the old movies like that? Because those older movies, though they were written along slightly softer lines than those nowadays, were contemporary or close to contemporary to the late 1930s and early 1940s of the World War II era. The actors played roles and used props, but it was pretty spot on for what the people would have said, felt and did. Carrie Lofty captured that WWII era in her novel. I felt like I was reading a contemporary novel from the 40s and not a modern writer writing historical romance, feel me? From the lingo, to the war-time shortages, to the clothes, to the recreational pursuits, to the war efforts, to the thought processes and feelings of those living and fighting for survival at the time just before the Normandy invasion, reading it felt real. Her book’s voice carried that underlying feel of desperation and determination of the stalwart British and their allies preparing to confront the might of Hitler’s German machine and push him back across Europe.
This story featured many wonderful and strong characters in both the men and women- main and secondary character roles. I had never heard of the women pilots of the ATA flying service so this story was a wonderful peek into the lives of the women who served their countries in that manner.
The story focuses on one ATA British woman pilot, Lulu, and a Yank paratrooper medic, Joe. Lulu lost her parents and her fiance in the opening years of the war so she has locked her heart up and determined never again to have it broken. She has strict rules for herself to keep from getting attached and then hurt by only seeing a guy once and moving on. Lulu and her fellow gal friend pilots go out on the town just like the guys for some much needed R&R particularly after she survived a potential life taking crash when her landing gear malfunctioned. This jaunt to the dancing club is when she meets Joe again. He was the medic who was first on the spot to aid her after her crash.
There is instant attraction between the two which terrifies Lulu, but she follows her rules even though shutting things down and seeing the hurt she has done Joe gets to her feelings. Fortunately, Joe is made of sterner stuff and doesn’t let Lulu’s seeming closed off behavior stop him from trying again. Lulu is not the only one with a history because Joe has a dark past too that involved time in prison and a terrible reputation back home so he is as vulnerable as her when he opens up his heart thinking he’s really not good enough for her.
Against the backdrop of the Allies preparing for invasion including Joe’s 512th Airborne, the two form a tentative relationship. Their feelings of love are hampered by their opposing feelings about Lulu’s work as a pilot since Joe is very traditional and protective of women and their roles. This conflict threatens to pull them apart permanently even if they survive the horrors of war.
The plot was exciting and my attention never wavered even though the book was on the longer side. Whether it was their rocky relationship or the tension of war, it all kept me turning the pages eagerly. The characters were well written and there were deep layers to them. Many of the secondary characters like the other ATA pilots and the men in Joe’s unit were so much more than just foils for Joe and Lulu.
This was a very well written story that I recommend whole-heartedly for the historical romance lovers, but I think even the Contemporary Romance lovers will find it a good read too.